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A consequence of the digitisation of all things is that we now have access to so much information at any time. Perhaps an unintended consequence of this new age of information is the overwhelming volume of advice we are getting.

5 tips for avoiding this. 10 ways to improve that. Don’t do this, do that.

The problem is that for every bit of advice telling you to do something, there’s another telling you not to do it.

Advice about our diets is probably one of the best examples of this. Don’t eat eggs! Eat more eggs! Eat eggs whites only! Egg yokes are the best! Only eat eggs from chickens who have attained spiritual oneness!

Ok. I made that last one up – but all the rest are real examples of advice spouted by experts over the years.

This happens in business too.

For example, I just watched a Ted Talk with Arianna Huffington whose advice is ‘Get more sleep’. About an hour later, a post on my LinkedIn feed claims that according to Bill Simmons, I need less sleep.

Want to be more productive? Do emails last. Do emails first. Exercise first thing before work. Exercise in the middle of the day. Dance around the office every 90 minutes.

A quick search about performance appraisals finds half the advice telling me how valuable they are and how to improve them, whilst the other half of the advice suggests we should stop wasting our time on them.

So who’s right?

Well, both. Or neither.

This is mainly because the advice depends on so many variables. For example when it comes to performance appraisals, it might depend on the type of role we are talking about. Are we referring to a creative, autonomous, innovative role of a graphic designer? Or are we talking about the customer service call centre rep for a major bank?

For one of those roles it’s important to measure how long the person was logged into their system and available to take calls. For the other, logged in time is really not important at all.

Or what about different industries? Or different company culture? Or the manager’s capability?

And it’s not just about Performance Appraisals. This dichotomy of advice seems to be around for just about anything.

I do appreciate the irony of someone who posts advice telling you to be wary of all the advice available to us.

But you need to figure out if the advice is right for your needs. That doesn’t necessarily mean deciding if you agree or disagree with the advice, but rather asking, is this right for our environment?

When I worked for another company, we had a client who had thrown out all metrics because they’d read somewhere that they can drive the wrong kind of behaviours. Whilst this kind of thinking can pay dividends (ie – it’s not necessarily wrong) it was wrong for their environment and the scrapping of all metrics created a vacuum where no performance reporting was understood or monitored.

It’s great when advice resonates with you – but you need to consider how it can apply to you or your work, your culture, your environment etc.

And don’t forget to eat eggs as part of a healthy diet. Unless you are vegan. Or Allergic. Or you don’t like eggs…

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